Cherry blossoms in Bulgarian countryside
This year, I'm sitting in my own house in Atlanta, watching the last of the cherry blossoms fall from the trees in our backyard. Last year, at this time, we were in Bulgaria, watching the cherry blossoms bloom.
View of Svirachi village (our house is the one in the very center with the white walls around it)
Bulgaria was a choice of necessity. We had to find a country that would accept Chewy and Abby without additional paperwork that was also outside of the Schengen zone since we had already used up our days within the Schengen countries and acceptable to our car insurance (Serbia, as it turns out, is not European car insurance-friendly). So, we ended up taking the long way from Budapest to Turkey, via Romania and Bulgaria.
Views of Svirachi village
Bulgaria has some big tourist attractions but our timing was off: March was too early to enjoy the Black Sea beaches and too late to enjoy the ski resorts. Instead, we decided to hunker down and get some work done in an out-of-the-way spot and found a Flipkey rental house deep in southern Bulgaria, close to the Greek and Turkish borders.
Views of Sofia, including guards, Hagia Sofia, and wishes for babies and fertility tied on trees in the springtime
We spent a night in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, in a high rise Hilton (because Chewy and Abby only stay at the best), next to an American-sized mall with a McDonalds across the street. Eighty miles past Sofia, we jumped from the trappings of the 21st century to the 19th century . . . or Amish country.
Cart and horse
We wound off the nicely paved interstate into pockmarked two-lane streets where the Bulgarian cars zoomed around us, gleefully missing the trucks bound for Turkey by just a hair, while we screwed our lips tight. Road eventually became a condition meant for dreamers as we exited the asphalt lanes onto dirt and sand pathways with human-sized potholes and rocks jutting through the bare earth. We soon realized that these roads were not meant for such modern inventions as automobiles; no, in this region, the primary means of transport is horse-drawn, or more likely, donkey-drawn cart.
September 1, 2012
ephesus, pamukkale, and aphrodisias
Library of Selcuk at Ephesus
We were amongst the hundreds or thousands to walk the wide alleyways of Ephesus and Aphrodisias. We stood on top of the white travertine terraces of Pamukkale and swam in the mineral pool used by the ancients. We sweated under the unrelenting sun among statues of kings and emperors and sat on pillars carved thousands of years ago. The apostle Paul came to Ephesus to establish a church and speak of Christianity at the amphitheatre at which we stood.
And, today, we walk through the decrepitude, oohing and aahing, in the same way that we savor the leftovers from a five star restaurant. We marvel at the fragments of grandeur of what once must have been three of the most beautiful cities in the world.
August 24, 2012
Turgutreis Homeaway rental
The break was inevitable and necessary after our hectic spring months: houseguests, bustling Istanbul, two blog trips to Umbria and Catalunya, and a week in touristy Cappadocia. We arrived in Turgutreis, Turkey, saw the apartment, set down our bags, and did not want to move.
The setting sky one night; view from our apartment
(And, really, can you blame us? We have stayed in some amazing apartments and hotels in our time but I can safely say that we have never had a better view than our Homeaway rental in Turgutreis, where we woke every morning to the clouds lazily drifting away from the Greek islands to the evenings when the sun set over the fishing villages surrounding Turgutreis. We drove all over the Aegean coast and never saw a better view than the one we had on our back porch.)
View of Kalymnos (I think) at sunset from Turkey
I occasionally get the question from relatives and friends who don't read our blog on what our daily life is like. And, I respond that my daily life isn't all that different from theirs --- it's just that I'm moving around quite a bit more. We wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, take the dogs for a walk, work on the Internet, do some walking around, shopping, or market-exploring, and wind up with a nice meal out or cook dinner ourselves. Sure, there are days when we're hot air ballooning, canyon jumping, and scuba diving, but, most of the time, we're simply trying to be in a place.
Shots of Turgutreis
Being in a place is different than touring a place. It's the difference between rubbing on a tiny bit of perfume from the magazine pages so you get a whiff of the newest scent versus spraying on enough so that the folks in the next two seats catch your aroma. You're going to smell good either way, but the intensity of the experience isn't remotely the same. (And, then, there's bulldozing through a place --- which we've done when limited by time constraints --- which is more like dousing yourself in enough perfume to beat out the old ladies ten rows behind you.)
August 14, 2012
mars on earth
View of Pigeon Valley and the usually cloud-covered Mount Erciyes
We loved Istanbul but, after a month in a city with the city noise, the city air, the city smells, and the city chaos (multiplied by ten for Istanbul), Cappadocia was sweet, sweet relief. This is why we've decided we'll never be city people: after about a week or two without constant greenery, we start to get grumpy. Or claustrophobic --- which makes no sense at all because I know that there's lots of space in a city --- but the claustrophobia starts to eat at the back of my shoulders and neck and I find myself wondering how all these people live without oxygen.
(This, by the way, is why I find all these studies about how the average American isn't getting sufficient vitamin D to be a true testament to the sadness of our times. Walk outside, people. Breathe the air. See the sun --- unless you live in Vancouver, Seattle, or London, in which case I can only wish you good luck.)
Anyhow, Cappadocia: wow. This is one of those places on earth that doesn't seem possible. I was looking at the Mars Rover pictures this week and, excepting the green, the colors are so similar to the rusty reds, burnt ochres, and virulent yellows found in Cappadocia. But, despite the desert/canyon conditions, it's also a fertile and lush place, known particularly for its wine region, which in my limited geological knowledge, doesn't seem feasible. Maybe that should be Cappadocia's slogan: where the impossible meets Earth.
Views from Goreme Open Air Museum, randomly hiking in the Pigeon Valley and other valleys, of Uchisar, and sunset at the Rose Valley
Details on Les Maisons de Cappadoce
Studio Ferme at Les Maisons de Cappadoce
Everyone and their brother runs a cave hotel in Cappadocia, not without reason because the limestone is easily carveable and, traditionally, the locals lived in cave and chimney houses. Plus, it's simply cool to wander into your Flinstones-esque house after a day spent soaring the Cappadocian skies.
We splurged and stayed at the uber-luxurious Les Maisons de Cappadoce, which are small cave houses, each with a kitchen, small lawn, fireplaces, and living space, facing the beautiful Pigeon Valley. (The picture taken at the top was on the road down to our house and the views from our house were fairly similar to the one pictured at the top.) We walked in and were immediately in love --- we visited two different houses to decide which one we wanted to stay in and they were both unique and beautiful.
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